Johnson County celebrates milestone in courthouse construction

The structure has been completed for the new Johnson County Courthouse under construction in downtown Olathe.

On Tuesday, Aug. 13, a “topping out” ceremony at the construction site raised the last steel beam 228 feet to the courthouse’s highest point in its structural framing. The time-honored tradition signals the completion of a high-rise building’s structural framing.

The event was attended by officials from Johnson County Government; city of Olathe; JE Dunn Construction, builder of the new seven-story courthouse; and other dignitaries.

“It’s hard to believe that just 13 months ago this construction site was not much more than a large hole in the ground,” Ed Eilert, chairman of the Johnson County Board of Commissioners, said. A groundbreaking ceremony at the construction site took place July 12, 2018.

In keeping with a “topping out” tradition, the final 12-foot, 240-pound beam had a small evergreen tree, known as the construction “Christmas tree,” at one end and an American flag at the opposite end. The tree signifies the safe completion of the framing of the structure, and a wish for continued good luck for the future of the building project. In addition, the event allows an opportunity to publicly thank the more than 200 construction workers for their hard work.

The milestone beam, which was painted white, featured scores of signatures, including elected leaders, county management, community leaders and other dignitaries along with the project design team and many of the construction workers.

“This ceremony is just that – a symbolic ceremony – but it’s a significant milestone in building the county’s new courthouse,” Chairman Eilert said. “It’s also very important to again thank Johnson County voters. They are the ones who approved the public safety sales tax to provide the funding for construction of this much-needed courthouse.”

Other speakers at the celebration included Olathe Mayor Michael Copeland and Ben Vanderau and Dan Kanzler representing JE Dunn Construction.

A barbecue lunch for attendees and construction workers along with short tours of the construction site ended the “topping out” event.

When it opens in early 2021, the new courthouse, with 28 courtrooms and approximately 350,000 square feet of space, is expected to address the county’s criminal justice needs for the next 75 years as Johnson County continues to grow.

“Placing the final steel beam also confirms Johnson County’s commitment to keeping this vital project on schedule and on budget,” Chairman Eilert said. “The new courthouse will not only be highly functional, accessible, safe and secure. It will become a stunning new Johnson County landmark to serve as a beacon of justice for generations to come.”

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